August Bush Telegraph

30 August 2017, Wednesday

The Excitement of High Season

The dry season is now moving along, the bush is dry and the wildlife sightings are reaching epic levels. This is the best time to visit Kruger National Park for predator sightings and our guests have enjoyed many close encounters in August. It is the busiest time of the year in Kruger with regards to tourism and all the camps are fully booked. It is also the busiest period of the year for Wild Planet Safari and we have shattered our previous records with a total of 10 tours and 44 tour days! This month we visited Kruger from the Far North to the South, Royal Hlane Reserve in Swaziland, Hluhluwe National Park and the Kwazulu Natal North Coast. We added 2 new guides to our team this month, Chris and Paul, both are doing very well and thoroughly enjoying every tour they run.   


Sighting of The Month


We had so many great sightings this month, we found some mammoth Elephants near Letaba that are most certainly on the emerging tusker list,  we saw our favourite family of Cheetah (mother and her 4 cubs), numerous Leopard sightings including a young female attempting to hunt impala, we enjoyed the company of some huge breeding herds of elephant, some with well over 60 individuals and we saw buffalo herds with well over 300 members. The sighting of the month has to go to the pride of 17 lions we found in the Nawanetsi area of Kruger, among them was a very special surprise, a rare white lion!
We left Satara early in the morning on a particularly cold day. There was a low lying mist throughout the Savanah grassland in some places we could not see more than 5 metres from the road. It was a eerily dramatic scene but very poor conditions for finding any Big Game. I feared the worst and prepared myself for a very quiet game drive and perhaps some disappointed guests. We managed to find a big lone male just off the road and our spirits were lifted somewhat. Unfortunately as we arrived he decided to disappear into the mist. We continued on and as we reached the bottom of a dry river bed the mist lifted, we gazed up at the road and in the far distance we saw a pile of lumps on the road. We excitedly approached and could not believe our eyes, the lumps on the road was a big pride of lions. We stopped on the road about 5 metres from the pride. A sense of hysteria filled the car as we started to count the individuals. The counting process was made very difficult by the lions as they were literally lying on top of each other. We finally agreed on 16 but later found out it was actually 17. They were mostly males many just under 2 years in age. It is going to be very interesting to watch the pride dynamics shift and change as the males grow older and start to get obsessed in promoting their own dominance.
We had a great time photographing and watching the lions as they slowly got restless and flashed their giant teeth at us during their contagious yawning. After a while we noticed a pale patch in the short grass, on closer inspection the pale white lump in the grass turned out to be a very rare white lion. This is a very rare sighting indeed and it was made even more special by the fact that it was only our group and one other vehicle in the area. The male white lion had some injuries on his mouth from a porcupine hunt the previous night, should not be a life threatening problem but it will leave some nasty scars. 
All in all an excellent sighting and well deserved sighting of the month. I can`t wait to find the pride again and to watch all the males grow up. There is an article below with more information on what makes a white lion.

What makes a White Lion.


A white lions colour is a result of a recessive trait in the genes of the mother or father lion that is passed on to the cub. It is a rare colour mutation in the same gene that causes albinism but less severe. Lions with this colour mutation vary from blonde to pure white. It was widely believed that white lions could not survive in the wild and they were rescued and placed in various zoo`s around the world. 

Up until 2009 there were very few white lions in the wild and the mutation was believed to be extinct, a pride was then released into the wild in the Timbavati area of the Greater Kruger National Park. This is an area that was historically home to the most white lions. 

The Timbavati white lions have been hunting and breeding successfully in the wild since reintroduction without any assistance from humans thus proving that they are not disadvantaged by their pale colour. There were white lion cubs born in the Timbavati area in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Even more interesting is the fact that White Lion cubs were born in the Nawanetsi are in Kruger in 2014 and 2015. These lions had no contact with the introduced Timbavati Lions and this shows that the white lion genes still occur naturally in wild lion populations.




Guide Profile of the Month

This month we welcomed Paul McKelvey to the Wild Planet Safari Team. He is the newest and Oldest member of the team but he would say oldest means more experienced. Paul`s guiding career started in 1981 in Botswana where he guided at the famous Savuti and Khwaai River Lodge. Paul then worked on numerous gold mines under the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates before returning to guiding in 2015.  Before joining Wild Planet, Paul was the senior Field Guide  at Mabula Lodge and at Lalibela Private Reserve. He prides himself on his knowledge of mammal behavior and he is the perfect addition to our team. Paul`s favourite animal is the elephant and he loves to spend his spare time on the trail of another geocache.

Photo of The Month

It is great to feature an animal outside of the Big 5 as our photo of the month. This month it is a photo of a zebra that takes the accolade. This photo was taken just before we found the big pride of lion. The sun was just rising and the mist is still visible and reflecting beautifully in the first sun rays.

August Featured Bird: Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus)


The Martial Eagle is the largest of all eagles in Southern Africa. The females are larger than males, the Martial Eagle stands about 78 - 83cm tall, they have a wingspan between 1.9 and 2.4 m. Martial eagles are found in flat open woodland and they spend much of the day soaring, they have excellent vision and can spot prey from 6km away. Martial Eagles hunt a wide variety of prey mainly small mammals like hares, small antelope, jackal and mongoose. They are also fond of hunting birds such as francolins and guineafowl. Their favoured prey in Kruger seems to be Water Monitors. 

Wild Planet Safari News


We are fully booked for September and October, there are places open for tours in November and December and we have already taken bookings for the busy periods in 2018. Our little Bush Baby (Felix) turns 2 on the 1st of September and is already identifying different mammal species and showing the bloodline of the bush is strong with him. Our Scorpio (vehicle) is getting a fantastic makeover in September and will soon sport her own set of camping drawers to make organisation more efficient.

That is all for now, remember to follow our instagram and facebook page to see safari updates where ever you may be. 

Cheers from The Wild Planet Safari Team.